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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Spain
    Grisebach GmbH, Berlin, 29 May 2014, Lot 80
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    About the Painting, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, 2008

  • Catalogue Essay

    Born in 1938 in Nazi-ruled Germany, Georg Baselitz grew up in the austerity of East Germany, bearing witness to the catastrophic aftermath of the Second World War, and the emotional turmoil engrained in the national psyche. In searching for alternatives to Socialist Realism and Art Informel, the artist employed a form of expressive distortion in order to experiment with darker façades of cultural memory. In the early 60s, he painted the Heroes series with a painterly style, depicting figures standing in devastated landscapes with torn-off limbs and tattered uniforms, evoking vivid images of soldiers ravaged by war. Then, starting from 1966, Baselitz developed his Fracture series, which extended the hero motif with fragmented yet interrelated body segments placed upon horizontally-divided canvasses. However in order to overcome the content-driven character of his earlier work, Baselitz invented his inversion technique, with the work The Wood on Its Head (1969) being the first example of this. By deliberately upending an image, the artist intends to objectify the work of art without entering the realm of pure abstractions.

    Painted in 1997, Hinterglasvogel is a paradigm of the artist’s emblematic inversion motif. Upon first glance, the canvas is made up of a multi-layered background, built up through gestural brushwork and purple, white and yellow tones. Swathes of yellow lie at the heart of the composition, with swirls of purple rendered in each corner. The fluidity of paint and unconstrained forms meet to create illusion of a pure abstract painting. Yet by rotating the canvas by 180 degrees, the lines and colours evolve into more recognisable forms - the lines forming the contours of the titular bird’s beak, wings and claws; the bright yellow becoming the bird’s shimmering breast, and ultimately presenting us with a bird perching on a handrail. Expertly traversing the lines of figurative representation and abstraction, this work is exemplary of Baselitz’s mastery of altering our perception of images.

    Birds have always been a theme that intrigues the artist. He once assisted wildlife photographer Helmit Dreschsler on ornithological photos shoot in 1949, which later inspired his painting Where is the Yellow Milkjug Mrs Bird? (1989), now in the Tate collection. However unlike the 1989 work, the present lot features a single fierce-looking bird at the centre of the painting, commanding our attention with its ferocious presence. The title of the work “Hinterglasvogel” in German, meaning “Bird behind the glass” in English further evokes a story untold. Rendered upturned, the bird seems to be near skeletal, even a carcass hanging from a hook behind the glass. The upside down imagery of the bird perhaps alludes to the fall of the Third Reich, for whom the Reichsadler was a prominent symbol, embodying ideals of Germanic imperialism.

    With the inverted motif serving as his response to post-war German art, Georg Baselitz’s semi-abstract figurative painting perfectly conveys his key belief that one’s perception can be dramatically altered through representation.

Property of an Important European Collector

24

Hinterglasvogel

1997
signed, titled and dated 'G. Baselitz. "II Hinterglasvogel" II 16.VII. 97 18.VII.97' on the reverse
oil on canvas
130 x 97 cm. (51 1/8 x 38 1/4 in.)
Painted in 1997.

Estimate
HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 
€221,000-331,000
$256,000-385,000

Sold for HK$2,000,000

Contact Specialist
Jonathan Crockett
Deputy Chairman, Asia and Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Asia
+852 2318 2023

Sandy Ma
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2025

General Enquiries
+852 2318 2000

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 November 2017